My husband died in his sleep but my in laws said I killed him. How could I have killed my husband? After all, my uncle had married me off to such an old man because he could not repay the debt he owed. I had only set eyes on him a few days to the wedding and only known when my aunt had pointed him out, “That is your husband.”
On the wedding day, I had wept. I didn’t understand what was happening as I had only just had my first period and my aunt had not educated me on the intricacies of womanhood, I was but a child. Before I was escorted to his hut , my aunt and the other women had said to me , “Do as your husband says and be a good daughter to your mother in law.” Left alone in his hut, it finally dawned on me that my new role and duty as a wife had begun.
Old enough to be my grandfather, he was kind and treated me well , I took good care of him. Pregnancy came with agony and my young body struggled. I was a child carrying another child and it didn’t help that the women advised me to be strong. It seemed like forever and somehow I miscarried and bled and bled. I wasn’t angry at him for making me pregnant , instead I felt I had failed him as a wife. So how could I have killed this kind old man? Didn’t his family know that at his age he was prone to having a heart attack? I had never been bold enough to ask him why he had not married earlier in his life. I was just a wife.
Five years after the miscarriage and I had still not conceived, his family said I was witch and a man. That it was part of the reason I had killed their son and brother. Come to think of it, a hut and a piece of land was too small a reason for me to take a life.
They had shaved my beautiful hair with a new blade as a sign of respect for the dead. His corpse had also been washed and the water given to me to drink to prove my innocence. After which they isolated me in a hut far from the others, where I sat shivering at night from the fear of the thought that my male in laws might prey on my young body to satisfy their lust as had happened to some other young widows. Every night before I went back to that hut, I had to do the forbidden which was to carry firewood from my hut to the forest instead of the other way round..
What more did they want from me? Hadn’t I wailed louder than other women and attempted to jump into the grave to show how bereaved I was ,as was expected? Hadn’t I endured the humiliation of having a herbalist throw his cowries on the sand and leave without a word to prove my innocence?
My body itched from days without bathing and my mourning clothes stank, I was hungry too. Tomorrow I would be inherited by my husband’s brother, who already had two older wives. They would mock my barrenness and my new husband might beat me because of their lies.
Carefully I slipped out of the hut and stealing my dead husband’s bicycle, I begin to ride fast into the night, towards the light in my head. Leaving the past behind. I was free…